Money is a common source of stress. The American Psychological Association reports that 72 percent of adults report feeling stressed about their finances, whether they’re dealing with credit card debt or trying to make rent. The Financial Health Institute defines financial stress as “a condition that is the result of financial and/or economic events.” That feeling spills over into everyday life creating feelings of worry, difficulty sleeping, and even negative physical effects. With Americans facing more economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, that pressure may be at an all-time high. We’re here for you, and we want to share a few tips to help with any concern you may be feeling.
1. Take Inventory
Just starting can be the scariest part, but you can’t make a plan if you don’t have a full picture. So, begin by pulling out all your bills and taking stock of all your financial obligations — and your ability to meet them. Making sure you have a clear picture of your situation will prepare you to take action. As you review, identify your biggest source of anxiety. Is it that tuition bill coming due or your mortgage payment? This will help you know what you need to address first.
2. Track Your Spending
Tracking can be an effective tool to bring awareness to your spending habits, and it’s an essential first step to developing a budget. You might believe that you can’t tackle your financial stressors because you don’t have enough money to put toward a problem area. However, following your spending might point to areas where you could make changes.
3. Make a Plan
You’ll need to identify what’s within your control (refinancing your home mortgage, for example), and what’s outside your control (such as a public-health emergency). For the items you can control, lay out a plan that will help you overcome whatever is causing you tension. You may have to seek out additional support from a financial advisor or banker. As you tackle your stressors, try to take on one thing at a time. Having to make multiple difficult decisions at once can feel overwhelming and may keep you from moving forward.
4. Take Small Steps
You might not be able to pay off $500 of credit card debt in a month, but you might be able to identify ways to save $100 a month and pay it off in a few months. Identify small ways to work towards your goal and track your progress. Achieving small wins and celebrating them will build your confidence to address big goals or concerns.
5. Stay Positive
Your mindset can help you conquer your financial stress. If you’re feeling bogged down, take a break and come back to the problem later.
6. Work Toward Long-Term Goals
Once you’ve made a plan to address your immediate financial stress, begin creating future stability to prevent additional anxiety. This might mean establishing and following a careful spending budget. It could lead to establishing a household emergency fund. You may also consider how you can boost your income. Whatever the path is for you, try to lay a foundation for a less stressful financial future.
7. Take Care of Yourself
As you navigate your financial stress, make sure you’re staying well. Additional strain can lead many people to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as emotional eating. If you notice you’ve developed habits that don’t serve you, you may want to seek out help from a counselor. Finally, do everything you can to reduce overall worry. You may consider starting a mindfulness practice, going for a hike, or trying a new workout. We hope you take care of yourself!
Get Help if You Need It
Almost everyone will experience some level of financial stress in their lifetime. Whether it’s a sudden job loss, an unexpected health problem, or impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s OK to ask for help when you’re struggling. State ECU is here to help you build a strong financial future with resources to guide you through stressful times.